Delta Exec Eyed As FAA Administrator

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The Wall Street Journal says (subscription required) retired Delta Air Lines VP and former line pilot Steve Dickson is the new favorite to become the next FAA administrator. The Journal says Dan Elwell, who has been the acting administrator since January, “quietly pulled out of the running” because it didn’t seem likely he would be nominated and confirmed. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao favored Elwell but President Donald Trump was promoting his personal pilot John Dunkin for the job. Dickson is viewed as a compromise candidate and an announcement is expected this month.

Dickson rose from the pilot ranks at Delta to become the senior vice president of global flight operations. He retired from the post earlier this year. He spent 27 years at Delta. If confirmed, he would be the first FAA administrator to come from the airline industry in 30 years.

Comments (3)

Not sure this is a good candidate either since he is listed as a "former" pilot. Maybe since he was a Delta exec he shares Delta's disapproval of privatizing ATC ?.

Posted by: matthew wagner | November 4, 2018 8:05 PM    Report this comment

The real question is where Mr. Dickson will take the FAA's NEXTGEN program(s). The totality of NEXTGEN is based on augmented GPS (WAAS) position reporting. The airlines (including Delta) have consistently refused to adopt WAAS technology citing unacceptable direct and opportunity costs. They've prevailed so far, carving out a WAAS/ADS-B exemption for themselves from the 2020 deadline.

If Mr. Dickson takes the airlines' position, they will likely be allowed to run out the clock on WAAS/ADS-B, allowing their non-complying airframes to operate until they are retired (all new airliners are WAAS equipped). That would delay full implementation of NEXTGEN for 15-20 years and substantially nullify the ADS-B investments made by others.

I doubt it will come to that. Let's see what balance Mr. Dickson strikes between his industry loyalty and his belief in public service.

Posted by: kim hunter | November 5, 2018 12:38 AM    Report this comment

With regards to privatization, here's a quote from the WSJ article:

"Mr. Dickson years ago attracted some media attention by writing opinion pieces and giving interviews opposing efforts to privatize the nation's air-traffic-control system.... In a 2016 interview, Mr. Dickson allowed that the FAA's performance managing air-traffic control "needs to improve," but maintained on behalf of Delta that separating the function from the FAA would amount to overkill.
...
Mr. Dickson's pending nomination may signal an easing of the current administration's push to privatize air-traffic control, as Mr. Trump doesn't consider it a crucial change, the White House official said."

Posted by: Kirk Wennerstrom | November 5, 2018 5:53 AM    Report this comment

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